The Jamaica Racetrack, also called Jamaica Race Course, was opened in 1903 by the Metropolitan Jockey Club in Queens County, New York. In a New York Times article from opening day, the public was guaranteed “novelty for racegoers this afternoon on the spick and span new race course… where, with the running of the $7,000 Excelsior Handicap as the special feature, the new track will be open to the public for the first time, and formally added to the racing circuit of the East.” 1
In addition to the Excelsior Handicap, Jamaica’s 1-mile track was also home to other noteworthy races in its over 50-year history, including the Wood Memorial Stakes, the Jamaica Handicap, the Remsen Handicap, the Prioress Stakes, and the Frizette Stakes. Native Dancer made his debut at Jamaica in April of 1952, and Hall of Famer “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons saw many of his horses claim victories at this industry fixture of the early 20th century.
The Greater New York Association assumed management of Jamaica in 1955. The Jamaica grounds were eventually sold to fund renovations to nearby Aqueduct and the other Greater New York Association’s turf properties, including Belmont Park and Saratoga. Jamaica hosted its last race on August 2, 1959, and the more than half of a century that “echoed to the hoofbeats of thoroughbreds and the cheers and anguished moans of the improvers of the breed”2 came to an end. A year later, a New York Times headline announced the “din of destruction at Jamaica replaces thunder of hoofbeats,” as the former facilities were razed to make way for the Rochdale Village housing development – the largest cooperative housing community in the world at the time of its construction.
1. New York Times. (April 27, 1903). "New Track Opens To-day."
2. New York Times. (September 24, 1960). “Din of Destruction at Jamaica Replaces Thunder of Hoofbeats.”
Genaro, T. (2011). “Good-bye, Jamaica.” Retrieved on October 10, 2015, from https://brooklynbackstretch.com/2011/10/07/good-bye-jamaica/
Jackson, K.T., Keller, L. & Flood, N. (2010). The Encyclopedia of New York City: Second Edition. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Liebman, B. (2009). “There Used to be a New York Racetrack There: But Where Was It?” Retrieved on October 18, 2016, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256004063_There_Used_to_Be_a_New_York_Racetrack_There_But_Where_was_it
Vosburgh, W.S. (1922). Racing in America, 1866-1921. New York: Priv. Print., The Jockey Club.